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QUOTE  If the telecommunications companies didn’t break the law, they do not need immunity. If they broke the law, the American people deserve to know the size and scope of their lawbreaking. Adhering to the rule of law would not ‘aid our enemies’ — it would uphold the very principles we are fighting for. The President’s position has nothing to do with protecting Americans and everything to do with sweeping under the rug illegal activity by his administration and his corporate partners. - Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  QUOTE
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Clinton Camp To Sue Texas Dem Party?

Via TPMElectionCentral, we find a McClatchy article on the possibility that the Clinton campaign may sue the Texas Democratic Party over its caucus system. It's not exactly clear which part the Clinton campaign considers unjust:

     ...

Democratic sources said both campaigns have made it clear that they might consider legal options over the complicated delegate selection process, which includes both a popular vote and evening caucuses. But the sources made it clear that the Clinton campaign in particular had warned of an impending lawsuit.

"Both campaigns have made it clear that they would go there if they had to, but I think the imminent threat is coming from one campaign,'' said one top Democratic official, referring to the Clinton campaign. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another Democratic official who was privvy to the discussions confirmed that Clinton representatives made veiled threats in a telephone call this week.

"Officials from Sen. Clinton's campaign at several times throughout the call raised the specter of 'challenging the process,' the official said. "The call consisted of representatives from both campaigns and the Democratic Party.''

The source, who asked not to identified by name because he did not have authorization to speak about the matter, said Clinton 's political director, Guy Cecil, had forcefully raised the possibility of a courtroom battle.

But Adrienne Elrod, Clinton's top Texas spokeswoman, said campaign and party officials had merely discussed election night procedures and that the campaign was merely seeking a written agreement in advance. She could not elaborate on the details of the agreement the Clinton campaign is seeking.

"It is our campaign's standard operating procedure that we need to see what we are agreeing to in writing before we agree to it,'' Elrod said. "No legal action is being taken. We have no reason to take any legal action.''

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the Obama campaign had no plans to sue.

"We're confident that by working closely with the Texas Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign we'll have a caucus that Texans can be proud of — because every eligible voter will be allowed to participate and have their vote counted in a timely manner," Earnest said.

     ...

The system in Texas for selecting a Democratic presidential candidate may be far from perfect, but it has been in place for quite some years. There is nothing wrong with the system now that was not wrong back at the beginning of the 2008 election season. And that was the appropriate time to lodge any legal objections to the system. Suing the state party now is attempting to change the rules in the middle of the game. That is unacceptable to me, and probably to a lot of Texas Democrats.

Clinton and Obama need to be clear about one thing: if one of their campaigns takes legal action against the Texas Democratic Party at this point for anything other than an actual violation of law or of previously established party rules, they shall receive no further support from me, money contributions or volunteer efforts for their campaigns, in 2008.

Steve
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Friday Cat's Ear Blogging

Tabitha models for makers of "cat's-ear marbles." Surely you've heard of those. What? what's that? Oh. Well. That's completely different. <emily_litella> Never mind! </emily_litella>



Actually, Tabitha climbed my lap and stared for several seconds right at the point-and-shoot camera, a mere few inches away from the end of the lens. I even had time to switch to macro. I pressed the shutter... and waited... and waited... and waited... At the last possible instant, Tabitha realized what was going on and turned away. So instead of a silk purse I ended up with a cat's ear. What? are you going to tell me again that that's not the usual saying? Aw, c'mon, let me have some fun...


Texas Democrats, today, Friday, 2/29, is your last day of early voting. In Harris County, you may vote today at any of the designated early voting locations. If you wait until Election Day, Tuesday 3/4, you must vote at your precinct polling place. For more details, please visit www.harrisvotes.org or call the Harris County Clerk's Office, Director of Communications & Voter Outreach, at (713) 755-6965. If you vote on Election Day, be sure to check the list of polling places right before you go to vote: I've read that some of the polls are being consolidated again this year, leaving some regular polling places empty on Tuesday. (You may well imagine what I think about that.) Whenever and wherever you vote, please allow time for long lines; the turnout to date this year has been nothing short of phenomenal.

On Election Day, 3/4, be sure to show up at your precinct polling place just after the polls close, typically about 7:15pm or so, to caucus for your presidential candidate. Bring your voter registration, which the election judge stamped DEMOCRATIC when you voted; this is your admission to the Democratic caucus (a.k.a. "precinct convention"). Not only is this a way to gain more delegates for your candidate, but if you decide to participate in higher levels of conventions (state senatorial district convention or state convention), this is where you begin. I won't be doing that this year, but I encourage you to do so at some point in your life. It's quite an experience, and occasionally even an enjoyable one.

Steve
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Go Ahead And Die

Via FDL, here's a YouTube video called "Go Ahead And Die! (Pirates Of The Health Care-ibean)", with music by the famous Austin Lounge Lizards. G&S it ain't, but it's plenty good enough. 'Nuff said.

(Yes, you read the time on this post correctly. And yes, I moved this line to the bottom.)

Steve
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What's In A Name? - UPDATED

Many of you in Houston probably received a mailer endorsing candidates in the March 4 Democratic primary. The mailer contained the name of a PAC, but no postal return address. The web site (sorry, no link from me) has a contact page which offers only a form for your contact information, with no clue as to who receives the form if you post it or what will be done with the information you post in the form. It's almost a complete pig in a poke.

But not quite. The presort postage meter stamp shows that the mailer was sent by one JohnstonCampaigns.org (again, sorry, no link from here). And Vince Leibowitz of Capitol Annex has a few more details. Short version: as far as can be determined, behind the mailer and the web site is political consultant Stephen K. (Kyle) Johnston, and the primary difference (pun intended) between his endorsements and those of the venerable and all-too-similarly-named Harris County Democrats is his endorsement of a couple of "Craddick D's": Kevin Bailey and Al Edwards. Leibowitz explains the other differences for you; please read his post. (For non-Texans, "Craddick D's" are the Republican House Speaker and Certifiable Madman Tom Craddick's pet Democrats. Google the phrase for more info.)

So why do I care? Because Johnston has very nearly stolen the name of one of the oldest (50+ years) and largest club of progressive Democrats in the region, Harris County Democrats.

The chair of the Harris County Democratic Party got a burr in his fur a couple of years ago about the name of that club, even though it has been in existence under that name for more than five decades, and no one in the county suffers the tiniest bit of confusion between the county Democratic Party and the progressive Democratic club. Now along comes a campaign consultant who creates a PAC with a name that comes distressingly close to both longstanding names. I do not object to Mr. Johnston's issuing endorsements, only to his secretive apparent attempt to pass off those endorsements as those of another organization. We don't need that kind of crap in Harris County, or in any part of the Democratic community.

Once more, for clarity:

  • Harris County Democratic Party (HCDP):

    The official Harris County arm of the Democratic Party. Anything that comes from the party itself will be identified this way, and nothing with any other identifying name comes from the party itself.

  • Harris County Democrats (HCD):

    A 50-plus-year-old Democratic club with a membership made up mostly of progressive or liberal Democrats. HCD has its own unique logo which molds the letters "HCD" into the head of a donkey. In this day and age, most members of HCD are also members of HCDP, but HCD has no official capacity within the Democratic Party. HCD issues its own endorsements of Democratic candidates in Democratic primaries, and endorses all Democrats in the general elections. HCD not only endorses candidates... its members walk blocks, work phone banks, etc. for their endorsed candidates. (I was a member of HCD for years, and will be a member again when I have available funds for political contributions. I doubt I'll walk blocks for them again, though; my feet are too old for that.)

  • Greater Harris County Democrats PAC:

    A PAC apparently created by political consultant Stephen Kyle Johnston. No official capacity. No obligations other than to his clients. Nothing wrong with that, of course... but a bit less secrecy would be greatly appreciated.


UPDATE: it's worse than that. From Alan Bernstein of the Chron's Houston Politics:

     ...

There is no information on the card about the folks who are making the endorsements. Ditto for the group's website. But the Houston Politics blog solved the riddle in a suave snap by going to the Texas Ethics Commission website.

The 10 contributors to the organization include state Rep. Kevin Bailey ($1,000), Constable Gary Freeman ($250) and state House candidate Jose Medrano ($50).

Lo and behold, Bailey, Freeman and Medrano also are on the list of candidates endorsed by the Greater Harris County Democrats. [Sorry; I will not put that URL on the YDD. - sb] Essentially they paid money to advertise themselves.

Another endorsed candidate is judicial contender Marc Isenberg, shown on state records as having paid $1,500 to political consultant Sheryl Roppolo. And guess who contributed $1,000 to help circulate the endorsement list? Ms. Roppolo, of course. She serves on the Texas Democratic Executive Committee with Joy Demark, whose home is listed as the address for Greater Harris County Democrats.

(Emphasis mine. - sb)

Oh, Joy, how could you? I've had such great respect for you for so many years... Oh, well; all's fair in love, war and politics.

Steve
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EPA Chief's Decision Opposed By Staff, Former Chief

LA Times:

EPA staff sought influence of former chief on California warming law
     ...
Documents show agency officials thought the pending decision was wrong.
One memo warned of damage to its credibility.
By Richard Simon and Janet Wilson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
February 27, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Some officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were so worried their boss would deny California permission to implement its own global-warming law that they worked with a former EPA chief to try to persuade the current administrator to grant the state's request.

That unusual effort was revealed by documents released Tuesday by congressional investigators probing whether EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson was swayed by political pressure when he decided not to allow California to enact vehicle emission standards stricter than the federal government's.

The documents were released as a battle escalated between a key California Democrat, Sen. Barbara Boxer, the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the Bush administration over her efforts to get correspondence between the White House and the EPA leading up to Johnson's decision in December.

One of the newly released documents features "talking points" prepared by an agency staff member for former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly to help him build the case for granting California's request. In the October 2007 memo, the staffer said there was "no legal or technical justification" for the EPA to deny the request. If the agency refused California permission to implement its tailpipe law, the document said, "the credibility of the agency . . . will be irreparably damaged."

     ...

This is what happens when we allow the higher-level leadership of cabinet departments to become so vulnerable to direct political pressure from the White House that their scientific independence is seriously impaired. In this case, not only agency staff, but a former EPA Administrator under a Republican president (specifically, Bush 41) had difficulty with the basis of Mr. Johnson's decision.

For almost eight years, Bush has picked cabinet members, agency heads and yes, federal judges with an eye, not merely toward reflecting his policy, but toward assuring specific outcomes desired by the White House in specific decisions. In other words, Bush (Cheney, Rove, Addington, whoever's pulling the strings) has selected toadies, not leaders. This must cease. If a Democrat becomes president in 2009, his or her first action should be to replace as many high-level Bush appointees as possible. Between now and then, may I remind Harry Reid that there's no reason he cannot effectively block all new Bush appointees between now and the end of Bush's term. There's a lot of evil work to be undone, and it isn't going to be easy.

Steve
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Dodd To Endorse Obama

It's all over the news, even the NYT web front (as a link to an AP article). But the most details at this moment appear to be in this short WSJ blog post.

That leaves Edwards and Richardson. And Clinton, presuming that happens... which I do presume.

Steve
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Caution: Bonus Sign

OK, so it's a sticker. Hmm...







Caution: Blogger Just Doesn't...







Steve
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Rove's Work

If you saw 60 Minutes tonight, specifically, the segment on former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman's likely false prosecution, conviction and imprisonment, allegedly at the behest of Karl Rove, you will ask yourself who else could possibly be responsible for this gross violation of the free press, as described by Larisa Alexandrovna of Huffington Post:

Parts of "60 Minutes" Broadcast Blocked in Alabama...

     ...

Now, let me tell you what has been going on. As 60 Minutes was putting its show together, the White House put pressure on CBS -- the parent company -- to kill the show. Over the last few days, as word got out that the 60 Minutes show would air tonight, Karl Rove's associates began planting defamatory stories about journalists working on this story (see example here) and attacking the whistle-blower who came forward, Dana Jill Simpson. If you recall, Ms. Simpson testified, under oath, to Congress about Karl Rove's involvement in politicizing the DOJ. What you may not know, however, is that her house mysteriously caught fire and she was run off the road in the weeks leading up to her testimony.

What you may also not know is that Governor Siegelman's house was broken into twice during his trial as was his attorney's office.

Yesterday, the attacks on Simpson and journalists increased with a series of emails from the Alabama GOP. See Here.

Tonight was something truly unseen in US history. During the 60 Minutes broadcast and ONLY during the Don Siegelman portion -- the screen went black for Huntsville residents and Mobile residents. There are other reports of other locations, but I have not yet confirmed those. In Florida, a series of strange ads were running about the FISA bill and how Democrats are not tough on terrorism, apparently during the 60 Minutes hour and also right before 60 Minutes, but not after (still trying to confirm when the ads stopped running).

In other words, in the United States of America, a man is imprisoned for being a Democrat. When reporters attempt to get this story out, they are threatened and smeared. When all else fails, the public is not allowed to see the news. This is not acceptable and I -- as a US citizen -- demand that Congress investigate this series of blackouts immediately. Any company involved in this must have their FCC license pulled too. Karl Rove may be gone from office, but he clearly is not gone from power. So long as his buddy, George W. Bush, continues to occupy the White House -- what used to be a symbol of how a nation could both be governed and be free -- we will continue toward abuse after imperial, no Soviet, abuse against us. That too is unacceptable.

     ...

(Emphasis mine. Links original.)

God damn the bastards who perpetrated this to an eternity in Hell. Well, OK, coming from a UU, damning someone to Hell may not have much meaning. But Karl Rove would do well to stay out of my kitchen while I'm chopping vegetables.

Steve
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Egomaniacal Hostile Antisocial Imbecile Announces Presidential Run

And I don't mean McCain.

Steve
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Saturday Signs

The signs are obscured but irrelevant. Here we have a golfer with a greater than usual interest in the instruction "please replace divots."

This business has sold topiary giraffes, monkeys, etc. for a long time. This is the first time I've seen a topiary golfer. Please forgive the overexposure; I took the shot in haste while sitting in Stella's car, waiting while she ran into the store (on foot, not with the car) to look for a garden stone.




Steve
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The Persistence Of Memory

Dali and clocks? No, cold boot attacks on disk encryption keys:

Cold Boot Attack Defeats Disk Encryption Software
If the chips are kept at low temperatures, residual data can easily be recovered, researchers found.

By Thomas Claburn
InformationWeek
February 21, 2008 05:50 PM

Researchers from three groups on Thursday published research showing that disk-based encryption schemes across multiple operating systems can be circumvented to reveal protected data.

In the paper, "Lest We Remember: Cold Boot Attacks on Encryption Keys," the researchers from Princeton University, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Wind River Systems revealed that computer memory, contrary to popular belief, retains data for a brief period after a computer is turned off and that cooling memory chips can prolong the persistence of data in memory.

As a consequence, disc-based encryption products that store decryption keys in memory, like Apple's FileVault, Linux's dm-crypt,Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT)'s BitLocker, are vulnerable to attack.

"Most experts assume that a computer's memory is erased almost immediately when it loses power, or that whatever data remains is difficult to retrieve without specialized equipment," the paper says. "We show that these assumptions are incorrect. Ordinary DRAMs typically lose their contents gradually over a period of seconds, even at standard operating temperatures and even if the chips are removed from the motherboard, and data will persist for minutes or even hours if the chips are kept at low temperatures. Residual data can be recovered using simple, nondestructive techniques that require only momentary physical access to the machine."

     ...

One of my neighbors when I was growing up told a story about an "exotic dancer" who had a sign on her dressing room door: "Don't assume nothin'." Who knew that that sign would apply to computers in the 21st century. You may have every sort of protection of your data known to humankind, but there's always an avenue you haven't considered. Don't assume nothin'.

Steve
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Pelosi: Florida, Michigan Won't Count

Bloomberg:

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Delegates from the disputed Florida and Michigan primaries shouldn't decide who wins the party's presidential nomination, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the chair of the Democratic National Convention.

"I don't think that any states that operated outside the rules of the party can be dispositive of who the nominee is," Pelosi said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt," scheduled to be aired today.

Pelosi's stand is a setback for Hillary Clinton, who won those states' uncontested primary elections after the party stripped the states of their delegates. Clinton is pushing to allow the delegates to vote at the Democratic convention in Denver, Colorado, on Aug. 25-28.

Democrats in Florida and Michigan have been told that the delegates can't participate in the nomination process because they held their primaries before the sanctioned date of Feb. 5. Both states are pushing to reverse that decision.

     ...

I know there is no point in sending such a letter, but here is my fantasy response to Ms. Pelosi:

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

Your reasoning is insane. The Democratic electorate of these two states comprises individual Democrats, individuals who typically have no control over when the states' primaries are held. This is particularly true in Florida, where the state government is Republican-dominated. You are single-handedly disenfranchising these people.

These Democrats have voted for your party's candidates, some over many decades. They have contributed money to Democratic campaigns and, yes, to the DNC, as surely as I have. In every important aspect, they are like Democrats everywhere else in the country. And you are rendering their votes meaningless.

You have probably thought of the consequences largely in terms of interparty intraparty politics. But have you calculated the effect on the general election, on future elections, on fundraising, on the future of the Democratic Party? If your intent was to "send a message," you probably succeeded. But it is probably not the message you intended. One rightly disgruntled Floridian has coined the term "unDemocratic Party" because you axed his primary vote. How can you answer him? Party rules that lead to mass disenfranchisement are undeniably undemocratic.

If you allow this decision to stand, Floridians and Michiganders will wander away from the Democratic Party. They may not become Republicans, but they will cease their active support of the Democratic Party. What has happened to the much-ballyhooed "fifty-state strategy"?

One more thing. I've been a Democrat for more election cycles than I can count. I have voted for every Democratic presidential candidate since I began voting over 40 years ago. This year, as a Texan, I have seen my state exercise some possible influence on the choice of a Democratic candidate for the first and possibly last time, because our primary is so late in the process. I have to consider the possibility that in some future election my state will attempt to advance its own primary date, so as to be a real electoral participant rather than merely a source of deep pockets for candidate fundraising. If that happens, will I stand and watch as you disenfranchise me, the way you have disenfranchised similar lifelong Democrats in Florida and Michigan? What do you think my response will be?

Madam Speaker, if you allow this decision to stand, you are a fool.

Very truly yours,
Steve Bates

Steve
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Friday Kitty Property Blogging

Tabitha: "My seat. My pillows. MINE. What part of 'MINE' do you not understand?"



Relocating Tabitha from a spot like this is not difficult... she's very old, and resistance truly is futile for her... but she can put up a complaint so loud that the next apartment building will hear it.

Steve
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TX Dems: Get Your Caucus Right

... especially the record-keeping... or, according to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's political blog, Politex, we all may experience "chaos" on the night of March 4.

Here's what the estimable CEWDEM (Carl Whitmarsh) says about this matter in an email linking the Politex post:

Holding a precinct convention is easy. Make sure someone responsible is in charge of the paperwork - EVERY PRECINCT has it and you can get it from the person holding the election - follow the instructions COMPLETELY - elect a precinct delegation chair to the next level convention - AND THEN TURN IN THE SIGNED MINUTES ELECTION NIGHT.

I am fortunate that my precinct has an experienced "old hand" at the helm. Yours may or may not have someone who knows the procedures well. If it does not... do it yourself, to see to it that it is done properly: your influence on everything from presidential candidate selection to platform is at stake.


A reminder: early voting in Texas is going on RIGHT NOW. I think it goes through the 29th, but why wait a day longer?

Steve
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Flash! Online Free Speech Infringed... NYT Notices!

I never thought I'd see the day a New York Times editorial took a position in defense of the First Amendment rights of anything other than itself:

EDITORIAL
Stifling Online Speech
Published: February 21, 2008

The rise of Internet journalism has opened a new front in the battle to protect free speech. A federal judge last week ordered the disabling of Wikileaks.org, a muckraking Web site. That stifles important speech and violates the First Amendment. It should be reversed, and Wikileaks should be allowed to resume operations.

Wikileaks claims to have posted more than a million corporate and government documents that, it says, expose wrongdoing. It has posted, among other things, a 2003 operations manual from the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, military prison. Julius Baer Bank and Trust, a Cayman Islands branch of a Swiss bank, sued Wikileaks charging that it had illegally posted documents stolen by a former employee. The site said the documents “allegedly reveal secret Julius Baer trust structures” for money laundering, tax evasion and other misdeeds.

     ...

Read the rest. And mark your calendars. The day the NYT recognizes and defends the free press rights of any publication other than itself is the day it exhibits some trepidation for its own rights. We should all sit up and take notice.

Steve
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Global Climate Change May Be Disastrous

ellroon points us to results by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as reported by Renee Schoof of McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — What's likely to happen if the world does nothing to combat global warming? The answer from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was jaw-dropping: more than 40 percent of known plant and animal species could become extinct by the end of this century.

Many scientists who've been studying climate change say extinctions aren't inevitable if the world greatly reduces its dependence on oil, coal and natural gas. As daunting as the warning signs and projections are, there's still time to fend off the worst, they say. But they also warn that "business as usual" would bring devastating changes in the decades ahead.

"We're locked into a different planet, but we can still make it a planet similar to what we have known," said Lara Hansen, an ecologist who's the chief climate-change scientist at the World Wildlife Fund. The Arctic Ocean will be ice free in the summer in a few years, "but we're not locked into the Arctic being ice-free year round, or Greenland melting."

     ...

As you cast your vote in November, please remember that you may very well be choosing the fate of the environment we all live in. There's not a lot of time, and not a lot of room for error. If we do not mend our ways promptly, that 40 percent of species could well include the increasingly ill-named Homo sapiens.

Steve
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Wisconsin: Obama Blowout

Wow. As of now, with 84 percent counted, Obama has a 17 percent margin of victory in Wisconsin. And according to TPM, the victory cut deeply into Hillary's core constituencies.

My vote today notwithstanding, and whatever Hillary gets in Texas and Ohio notwithstanding, it's beginning to look like a genuine consensus for Obama. As noted before, I can live with that.

Steve
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First Day Of Early Voting In Texas - UPDATED

At least our e-voting machines use a wheel and a few buttons rather than a touchscreen, but the graphic is about the most I can say with certainty. Yes, I voted for Hillary. No, I'm still not endorsing anyone. The lines at the early voting location I visited today were longer than I have ever seen in more than 40 years of voting here. The evening news confirmed the phenomenon: as best I remember, about eight times as many people voted today as voted on the first day of early voting in 2004. This is good news. Any time people give a damn enough to vote in large numbers, it's good news.

If you live in Texas, and you haven't voted yet, please do so this week. You may think it doesn't make any difference... but what if you're wrong about that? Do you want to take the chance?

UPDATE 7:45pm: via CEWDEM's list, Marc Campos has today's Harris county numbers:

In Harris County today.
1st Day Early Voting Comparison by Party

Year REP DEM
2004 678 849
2008 2,914 9,233

See what I mean? "Something's coming, something good..."

UPDATE 2/20 9:38am: again via CEWDEM's excellent list, from Sharon Barbosa in Dallas County (yes, the city of Dallas is there, unlike Houston County, which is nowhere near the city of Houston):

Year REP DEM
2008 2,011 ~8,600

As you might expect, Dallas is typically no bastion of liberalism, so these numbers probably mean something.

UPDATE 2/20 10:43am: again via CEWDEM's excellent list, from Madeleine Dewar in Bexar County (San Antonio). Ms. Dewar provided a large table with a lot of info, but I'll reduce the results to those shown above for other cities, so it will be easier to compare:

Year REP DEM
2004 389 1,099
2008 2,267 6,827

Even San Antonio, home to many people in the military, seems to follow the trend, although the D/R proportion hasn't changed much since 2004 there.

Steve
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$101.01

That's where light sweet crude oil closed today. Some analysts say it's because OPEC may cut production at its March 5 meeting, largely in response to the declining U.S. economy.

As for me, I just wanted to use that number as a post subject.

(I warned of this in doggerel a few years ago. See Over Fifty Bucks And Over A Barrel.)

Steve
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Catch-22

Oh, crap... hardly unexpected, but crap anyway. Here's Christy at Firedoglake:

SCOTUS Rejects Warrantless Wiretapping Challenge Case
By: Christy Hardin Smith Tuesday February 19, 2008 8:36 am

AP (via MSNBC) reports that the SCOTUS rejected the ACLU's challenge in the 6th circuit to the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping through NSA means on "standing" grounds. (ACLU v. National Security Agency, 07-468.) AP reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union wanted the court to allow a lawsuit by the group and individuals over the wiretapping program. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, saying the plaintiffs could not prove their communications had been monitored.

The government has refused to turn over information about the closely guarded program that could reveal who has been under surveillance.

ACLU legal director Steven R. Shapiro has said his group is in a "Catch-22" because the government says the identities of people whose communications have been intercepted is secret. But only people who know they have been wiretapped can sue over the program, Shapiro has said.

     ...

Christy goes on to explain the concept of "standing," which I'm going to presume my readers already understand. In this case, to have standing to sue, an individual or organization must prove they were directly harmed by the actions of monitoring their communications. But they cannot prove that, because the question of who was monitored is secret as a matter of... say it with me, children... NA-TION-AL SE-CUR-I-TY. That's good, children, I knew you could say it. Get used to it now; it's going to be one of the phrases you hear most frequently over the course of your long, sad, sorry lives as Americans.

Christy mentions some other cases in which mistaken government disclosure gave people actual evidence that they, in particular, were wiretapped apparently without a warrant. Those cases are still alive. But the real blockbuster is gone.

(In an expression of dark humor, Christy also provides us a link to the latest hijinks of Mark Fiore's animated Snuggly, the Security Bear. Snuggly is scary enough even when he smiles... and he doesn't always smile.)

Steve
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One-Issue Voter Goes For Hillary

I've said before that I'm a single-issue voter (healthcare), and then retracted the statement in light of my commitment to civil liberties. But civil liberties may be a wash between the two remaining Democratic candidates, leaving me with my original single issue.

As I've noted in my banner quote for a while now, Paul Krugman assesses Hillary's healthcare plan, for all its flaws, as the only true universal plan among candidates of any major party right now:

If you combine the economic analysis with these political realities, here’s what I think it says: If Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, there is some chance — nobody knows how big — that we’ll get universal health care in the next administration. If Mr. Obama gets the nomination, it just won’t happen.

Maybe she'll succeed in implementing the plan; maybe not. The plan is far from a single-payer plan: under it, everyone must purchase health insurance. The plan is not ideal... workable, but not ideal. Still, Krugman confirms his initial concerns about Obama's plan:

This is disturbing:

Mike Lux, a veteran of the Clinton health care wars, pointed out today that Obama is using as a surrogate on health care Bush Dog Democrat Jim Cooper. Cooper spent a good amount of time in 1993-1994 working to undermine Clinton’s health care plan by offering more insurance friendly proposals with former Senator and current lobbyist John Breaux.

This fits in with my sense, based on everything we’ve seen in this campaign, that Obama just isn’t all that committed to health care reform. If he does make it to the White House, I hope he proves me wrong. But as I’ve written before, from my perspective it looks as if a dream is dying.

I remember Cooper. Cooper is a piece of work.

Under Obama's plan, as perceived by Krugman, it's not even universal coverage. Individuals may opt out if they wish. We all know who will opt out: healthy young people. That will leave the remaining coverage not only incomplete but expensive, possibly prohibitively expensive, for the rest of us.

I'm sorry, but I've paid taxes for about 40 years in the expectation that I had a "contract across generations": I paid for my parents' generation's medical insurance; younger people would, in turn, pay for mine as I aged. And so on and so forth, through as many generations as America brings forth. From my perspective, anything less than universal healthcare coverage is a breach of contract by America's youth, a breach from which they will inevitably suffer themselves when they grow old.

This is not merely theoretical: I've seen an interview with a couple of young guys who whined that their taxes to support Medicare were just too expensive, that they never entered into such an agreement. Fuck that. There are societal traditions which every young American, expecially every financially successful young American, is obliged to fulfill. I did my turn; now it's theirs, and they can goddamned well pay up.

And so I expect a presidential candidate who proposes a mechanism which, at a minimum, supports universal healthcare coverage, no cherry-picking, no omission of the young and the restless: straight-ahead universal coverage, no exceptions.

Obama promises such a plan... he says he's for "universal coverage" ... but according to Krugman, he does not deliver. Hillary supports such a plan, and proposes a mechanism that would actually implement it... not the ideal mechanism, but at least a mechanism that demonstrably provides universal coverage.

In my heart, I want to support Obama. Gawd, does that man ever deliver a speech. I am old enough to have heard John F. Kennedy in his prime, and I'm not sure Obama is inferior to him in the speechmaking department. And goodness knows Obama has built a superb campaign organization that has the capacity... admit it, it has the ability as surely as does Hillary's... to defeat the GOP in November. If Obama becomes our candidate, I'll be there, as the saying goes, with bells on, to support him.

But in the meanwhile, I cannot ignore my own primary issue. And so, with a twinge of reluctance, I shall vote for Hillary.

I endorse no one. Vote for whichever candidate you think is best. In many ways, compared to what we've suffered for the past 7-1/2 years, this is a can't-lose primary. And just to be clear: I shall, for a fact, support the Democratic nominee in November.

An afterthought: I know I've said in the past that I would vote for Edwards if he were on the ballot in Texas. He is indeed on the ballot. If he had not openly suggested that he might (or might not) endorse one of the remaining candidates, I'd have done just that. But given that he has said so, his effectiveness as a broker, king-maker, etc. is effectively gone. That is his choice, and I respect it. But as a matter of personal policy, I cannot vote for someone who has, or is about to have, shot his wad. I use my vote only to further a policy agenda of my own... and at the moment, that is best served by voting for Hillary.

Steve
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CA Court Shuts Down Wikileaks US Site - UPDATED

Via TPMMuckraker, a California federal court has shut down the well-known and frequently effective whistleblower site wikileaks.org (try it yourself; it's gone). Fortunately for journalism and unfortunately for that federal court, there are many mirrors of that site around the world (here's one in Belgium).

Am I wrong in remembering that the First Amendment protects the publication of information that makes the current U.S. government (whoever they may be) uncomfortable?

Wikileaks, a completely anonymous organization (so anonymous that the court could find no way to subpoena its leaders and hence targeted its ISP instead), apparently is not challenging the order, because there are over 20 such mirrors in the world. But the suppression of anonymous leaks about the government (the executive) by the government (the judiciary) is a dangerous precedent. Still, perhaps there's an object lesson for U.S. courts in this incident: information wants to be free, as the old saying has it, and there's nothing the courts can really do about it. Please pardon me if I cheer this outcome.

UPDATE 2/19 20:02: Bryan, in comments, corrects my interpretation:

It was a series of documents about a Swiss bank that caused the judge to shut down the site through the ISP. The claim is made based on "trade secrets" not national security.

Steve
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McCain Considered Leaving GOP

I just thought any GOPers out there reading this post should know about this, from Josh Marshall:

There's an interesting dynamic in play if Barack Obama becomes the Democratic nominee this summer. John McCain has been lying for several years about negotiations he held early in this decade over leaving the Republican party and either joining the Democratic party or, probably more likely, becoming an independent and caucusing with the Democrats as Sen. Jeffords (I-VT) was then doing.

The person who knows most about those discussions is former Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). And Daschle is not only a supporter of Obama. He's played a key role in putting together the team of staffers and campaign operatives who make up Obama's inner circle.

     ...

Oh, yeah; that should make for some interesting spin from the McCain camp...

Steve
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Washington's Birthday

That's the real name of what we call Presidents Day. From the wiki:

A draft of the Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968 would have renamed the holiday to Presidents' Day to honor both Washington and Lincoln, but this proposal failed in committee and the bill as voted on and signed into law on June 28, 1968 simply moved Washington's Birthday.

I suppose it no longer matters to Washington's mother.

I've decided, tentatively at least, who gets my vote for president this week. Whether I'll endorse that person on the blog is still an open question; I may just say "vote for whomever you please."

Texans please note that early voting begins tomorrow, Feb. 19. Houstonians please note that early voting will not, in general, be at your regular election polling place. I'll post more details in a couple of days.

Steve
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The Meat Of The Matter

DBK of Blanton's and Ashton's compares the relative federal budgets for war and for inspecting food (and other items on whose integrity our life depends) and asks whether we are safer now that inspections have been cut in the course of funding Bush's breathtaking military buildup. DBK points to the USDA recall of 143 million pounds of beef as an example. About a quarter of that beef went to school lunch programs. As DBK notes, the USDA is recalling the beef because it "could" cause illness in humans; no cases have been documented to date.

Doesn't the USDA know? Apparently not:

Raymond said cattle that had lost the ability to walk since passing pre-processing inspections were slaughtered without an inspector having examined them for chronic illness -- a practice he said violated federal regulations and had been going on for at least two years.

Why do they not know? It's simple: they don't have the budget to do adequate inspections of the entire meat supply.

Millions Billions Trillions for "defense," but not one cent (or at least not very many cents) for inspections.

This same packing plant, Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Company in Chino, CA, has a documented history of abuse of living animals, violently forcing those too sick to stand to get up anyway so they could be slaughtered:

In January, the Humane Society of the United States accused Westland/Hallmark of abusing "downed" cattle, releasing video that showed workers kicking cows, jabbing them near their eyes, ramming them with a forklift and shooting high-intensity water up their noses in an effort to force them to their feet for slaughter.

Yeah, that makes it OK. If they're on their feet, they must be healthy enough for you to eat, right?

Please insert my standard disclaimer here about my being a non-proselytizing vegetarian. You can figure it out for yourself, without my help. Besides, the recalled beef is probably not unsafe even if some of it reaches your kid's lunch table... probably.

Steve
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McCain... Why Not? Here's Why Not

Apparently a lot of Americans are asking themselves that question. Kevin Hayden explains quite well why those Americans should just forget the man as a possible president: McCain has a temper, cannot control it, ranked near the bottom in leadership skills at the Naval Academy, is detested for his temper by many congressional staffers, ... well, just go read Kevin's post; he's documented all kinds of stuff. There are many reasons McCain would be a terrible president, and I plan to go into all of them in future posts. But let's start with the simple fact that a president should be able to keep a cool head under any stressful circumstance... and the other simple fact that people almost never change their basic nature at 71 years of age.

We do not need a hothead... or should I say another hothead... as president.

Steve
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A Bad Spell Of Whether

I rarely hassle anyone or any source about spelling, but the whether, um, weather forecast for this evening contains a howler that always draws my attention:

     ...

A SQUALL LINE WILL DEVELOP OVER CENTRAL TEXAS DURING THE AFTERNOON...
AND MOVE EAST ACROSS THE AREA DURING THE LATE AFTERNOON AND
EVENING HOURS. DISCREET SUPERCELLS AHEAD OF THE MAIN SQUALL LINE
COULD PRODUCE TORNADOES LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING. STORMS
EMBEDDED IN THE SQUALL LINE WILL LIKELY PRODUCE DAMAGING WIND
GUSTS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH...HAIL...FREQUENT LIGHTNING AND BRIEF
HEAVY RAINFALL.

     ...

If we will inevitably encounter supercells ahead of the main squall line, I am glad they will at least be discreet about it.

Whether Harris County is among those under the tornado watch through 9:00 PM depends on which source one reads. At the moment, at my home, the weather is merely unpleasantly wet (as opposed to pleasantly wet; I typically like rain if I don't have to drive in it).


UPDATE: according to the Chron, the weather in the Gulf should at least help disperse the diesel fuel spilled when a supply ship hit a drilling rig. Maybe a tornado will pick up some diesel fuel and deposit it directly in the tank of your diesel vehicle... say, am I being overoptimistic tonight?

Steve
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Houston Chronicle Endorses Obama

Here.

Meanwhile, the YDD still has not decided. I can make good personal arguments and good public arguments for and against both candidates. Early voting here starts on the 19th (I think), so I'll have to decide soon.

Steve
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Selected Links To Recent Posts

 
Click any permalink below to go to the original article on a previous page. Click a comment link below to add a comment to the original article. Your comment will be noticed, by the YDD at least: HaloScan has a page allowing me to view recent comments, no matter which post they refer to. Some very recent posts may be included in their entirety.

Saturday Signs


 

We've eaten here many times before, but this was our first time on the patio. We learned, in a most unpleasant way, both how the restaurant must have gotten its name, and why the second sign is posted. It might still be tolerable, if only the birds confined themselves to aggressively demanding food...

Steve
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At Last

Steve
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Friday Serious Snacking Blogging

Steve
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Shooting The Bird, Fouling The Nest - UPDATED

Steve
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Legal Playthings

Steve
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Typo Regarding FISA In House

Steve
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In Fairness: Credit To Obama

Steve
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Medical Insurance Fee-For-All

Steve
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FISA Telecom Amnesty Vote Tuesday

Steve
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A Few Political Matters - UPDATED

Steve
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It Does Not Matter Who Becomes President

Steve
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Saturday Signs

Steve
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What Remedy, If Not Impeachment?

Steve
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Prosperity And Peace

Steve
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Friday Not Siamese Blogging

Steve
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Tree In Winter

Steve
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How Texas Delegates Are Selected

Steve
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Headline Of The Day

Steve
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A Quick Note Regarding Obama

Steve
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Bloomberg.com: Dem Race A Draw

Steve
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Cookie

Steve
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Super Duper Pooper Scooper Tuesday

Steve
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Blog Intensity

Steve
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A Tough Time To Be A Kid, Part II

Steve
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A Tough Time To Be A Kid, Part I

Steve
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Saturday Signs - 'You Have Your Orders' Edition

Steve
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Groundhog Day

Steve
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Jeebus, Lookit Them Guns!

Steve
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What Edwards Accomplished

Steve
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Fraudulent By Nature

Steve
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Letters To Democratic Candidates

Steve
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Friday Here-Comes-The-Grooming Blogging

Steve
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